Sunday, February 25, 2018
Public safety

Source of Oldsmar water outage found

OLDSMAR — A rupture in a water pipe that left the city with little to no water over the weekend was finally found Sunday after hours of searching.

The culprit, the city said: a broken 8-inch pipe.

The leak, first discovered about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, closed restaurants, halted showers and prompted city public works personnel to scour the city of 14,000 people by truck and helicopter to look for the cause.

As of midnight Saturday, water in the western third of the city was back up to pressure, said spokeswoman Ann Stephan. Those residents and businesses were still advised to subject the water to a one-minute rolling boil before drinking or cooking.

Officials had coordinated Sunday morning with Pinellas County, neighboring cities and Jones Edmunds & Associates — a firm Oldsmar consults on water reclamation and design issues — to find the source and restore pressure to the rest of the city.

Even though the source was located, it will take some time to repair.

While city crews worked to repressurize the system, officials on Sunday afternoon closed one of two watering stations operated by the city of St. Petersburg. The station on the east side of City Hall, 100 State St. W, will stay open until 10 p.m., and reopen Monday morning if necessary. .

Residents must bring their own containers and boil the water before use.

Besides working checking hundreds of pipes and valves, leaks are sometimes also found because the water bubbles up and pools above ground.

Thus the helicopters.

But after weeks of regular rain and Tropical Storm Debby's drenching, the earth was saturated, so the leak never showed itself.

Even after the broken pipe is fixed, residents will have to boil their water for several days while officials determine if the system has been contaminated.

The outage posed a huge problem for area restaurants Saturday.

FlameStone had 243 reservations for Saturday night but couldn't open and had to cancel all of them.

"I know the city is doing everything they can," said general manager Rick Spinner. "It just puts us in a bad position."

Staying closed for the entire day, Spinner estimated, cost the restaurant more than $20,000.

At least one business, though, found a way to stay open.

Whole Aveda Salonspa manager Tara Gibbons lives in Oldsmar, so she knew the water was out early this morning. Gibbons picked up 30 one-gallon jugs on her way to work.

At two gallons per cut or three per coloring, that didn't last long.

She'd bought 150 jugs by day's end.

"It's been crazy," Gibbons said. "How do you do hair without water?"

Residents around town raided the local supermarkets' bottled water supplies. They cranked up their air conditioners, hoping not to sweat.

For Sean Vander Veer, on Split Fork Drive, the timing could not have been much worse.

Two of his wife's friends had come to town Friday for a birthday celebration. If the water didn't come back soon, he thought, they would need a hotel room.

Joe Reilly has owned a home in the Bay Arbor subdivision for 12 years. Early Saturday morning, he went into the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. When he turned on the faucet, nothing came out.

"It just stops you from doing the basic things," he said. "Going to the bathroom, taking a shower. I've got a couple dogs who could have used a bath today."

John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (727) 893-8472 or [email protected]

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